Going Analog - Sure, Let's Start Using Tape! How Hard Could It Be...?
I’ll give you the bad news first, because I promised the Editor I would: adding an analog recording stage to your DAW-based studio isn’t a cheap or simple endeavor. The days when you could buy a professional 2-track analog recorder for $250 are long gone; a respectable machine now costs $750–$1500, and it’ll demand the sort of sweat equity you’d put into, say, restoring a 1959 Plymouth. (You’ll also need to buy some ancillary things; we’ll talk about that soon.)
If you’re still with me, it’s a worthwhile project, because working with an analog recorder forces you to work differently from an all-digital setup, and that can stimulate creativity. At its best, it can also can sound amazing, putting a glowing corona around the music you record. I’ll go so far as to say that nothing really sounds like rock’n’roll recorded on analog; the two were meant for each other. (Plug “jazz” into that sentence if you prefer.)
So I’ll give you a quick guide to some of the recorders that are available out there. But first, I want to address a measure of reality about recording analog in the 21st Century, as well as dispelling a couple of persistent Urban Legends that have sprung up around the field, like mushrooms on a rainy day.